Way of the Wolf #1

Written by Michael R. Barklage
Illustrated by Robert Graham
24 pages, black and white
Published by Blueshift Studios

Chubby Checker would be delighted at today’s entertainment industry, because everyone involved seems determined to do the twist. A bigger twist would almost be to not have a twist, because you can’t help but find yourself bracing yourself for that sudden reversal of reality that’s determined to shock the audience. So when I found myself reading The Way of the Wolf, I was already prepared for some sort of big surprise at the end. The question is, were the creators able to pull it off? Or were they only tricking themselves?

4500 years ago in the Black Forest, a young hunter named Brendis knew to respect the wolves that shared the territory with them. He would offer them part of his kill if they helped, and made sure to understand the balance between humans and wolves. When his sister is killed by a wolf, though, Brendis vows to exact revenge. And it seems the only thing that stands between him and them is an elder who has the ancient power to speak directly to wolves, and is therefore the only person who can really know what happened—but is it too late for words?

Michael R. Barklage’s story is perfectly competent in The Way of the Wolf #1. It’s a strong introduction to his characters and the setting, certainly, setting up the story very early on. The problem is that everything is signposted so obviously that you can’t be fooled even for an instant about what’s going on. When you keep in mind that our main character clearly cannot see what’s going on, well, it just makes him look a little stupid. It’s a pity because it’s not a bad story, and the atmosphere is really rich, but if it had just been a little more straight-forward I think it would have been much better.

Robert Graham’s art, at a casual glance, reminds me a lot of the same style that White Wolf Publishing uses for their “World of Darkness” line. It’s a rough, primal sort of art, and Graham does a great job of making the cast really look like people from 2500 BC, not your next-door neighbors wearing animal furs. My only real peeve with Graham’s art is that it felt like the book printed a little too darkly, with all of his gray shading blurring together and making shadows look like dark. Hopefully this is something that’ll be tweaked a bit for the second issue, because it’s too nice a look to get buried by the printing process. (Some of the lettering is also a little small, for that matter. Slightly larger fonts aren’t a bad thing!)

The Way of the Wolf #1 is a promising debut, if a little weak in some parts of execution. Overall it’s not a bad book, but sometimes it’s better to just be a little more clear than cloaked in shadow. With this being just the first of six issues, there’s still a lot of time for refining their creative process. All in all, still a good first start for these two. You can order The Way of the Wolf #1 from Blueshift Studios.

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